2 – Kylemore Abbey – Connemara
A really famous tourist attraction and you will probably find yourself within tons of other tourists but still worth a visit. The old Abbey is the home of the Irish Benedictine Nuns and provides you with a choice of attractions. The Abbey itself was a former Castle, built (1867 – 1871) by Mitchell and Margaret Henry. The tragic behind the happy family life involves the sudden dead of Margaret and and one of the little girls (there were nine children). In 1920, the nuns purchased Kylemore Castle and it was converted into an abbey.
You can visit 6 rooms in the abbey (the Outer hall, the Inner hall, the Drawing Room, The Community Room, The Dining Room and the Rear Hall), all of them were redesigned with the original furniture and provide a lot of information about the history of Kylemore Abbey on boards. The nuns design little booksigns with Christian blessings that you can take away for a little donation (a really nice small gift from Ireland) and you can inform yourself also about the Benedictine Nuns and their principles.
The Kylemore Abbey is still a well-known boarding school with girls from all over the world (United States, Australia, Germany, England, Ireland). Unfortunately this school closes down in about four years due to the growing age of the nuns and the lack of perspective with younger nuns. I personally adored the little Neo-Gothic Church. You take a short walk from the Abbey to the Church on the lake side and can enjoy the fantastic view over the Kylemore Abbey Lake to the Connemara Hills. The church was built by Henry Mitchell as a memorial to his wife and was restored just recently. The Irish marble columns and the sandstone ceiling give the church a beauty (special tip: the altar was designed by a modern Irish wood designer!) and sacredness. The coloured church window shows five ladies with the main principles of a Christian life.
You can pray and rest in this little treasure church. A bit further down the path you’ll find the old mausoleum where the remains of Margaret Henry were laid to rest. Afterwards you should absolutely go with the bus shuttle service to the Victorian Walled Gardens. It was only re-opened by the nuns in 2000 and provides two walks and endless little paths and benches to enjoy the beauty of nature. There is a small walk just to discover hte Flower Garden and a longer path that also leads you to the Herb and Kitchen Garden. The two gardens are divided by a little stream.
The Flower Garden is an excellent example of a planting-style typical of the late Victorian era (geometrically shaped flowerbeds). The former Head Gardener’s House was turned into a miniscule museum where you can see typical landhouse rooms. Before you leave the whole area take a look into the giftshop.
You will find a huge variety of Irish products and I especially loved the selfmade Jam (chocolate, cake etc) by the nuns as well as self produced tasteful pottery. Definitely a good buy and a precious gift for your beloved or yourself at home that will always remind you of Ireland. To conclude the day you can have a coffee break in the restaurant.
Costs: Adults: 11 Euro
Students: 7 Euro
Seniors (over 65): 7 Euro
Is it worth the money? I’d say yes because you can easily spend half a day in the whole area of Kylemore Abbey with a huge variety of attractions. With some luck you get to chat to some of the nuns who still live there and preserve the Abbey, the Church and the Gardens. You can also attend their daily church services at 8 o’ clock (9 on Sundays) which will probably give you a real insight into the live of the nuns. The price is also worth it if you look at the state the buildings are in (restored church, well-groomed gardens, perfect variety of homemade gifts, good cafe).